An NBA season may finally play out on the court. Or, in a court.
As in a yet to be determined courtroom.
After four-plus months and 160-plus hours of negotiations, players and owners finally agreed on one thing – to disagree.
“We’ve come to the conclusion today that that process has not worked for us,” Derek Fisher, the union’s now former president, said Monday. “It has not put us in a position to get and to negotiate the fair deal that we’ve been working to try and compete.”
The fact is the two sides are only arguing over a handful of system issues. As a result, they are watching $4 billion in revenue slip away from their grasp.
Owners moved, albeit moderately, to allow tax-paying teams use of the sign-and-trade for the first two seasons of the new deal, as opposed to not at all. They also made a modest change in the mid-level exception, allowing tax-paying teams to sign players for three years and $3 million, as opposed to two years and $2.5 million.
But they didn’t move on a 12 per cent reduction in rookie wages and minimum salaries. And the owners proposed 10 per cent escrow withholding – up from eight per cent in the previous CBA – to account for overages in player salaries exceeding the player’s 50 per cent BRI was worse than their previous proposal.
That’s it. That’s all.
Rather than make any last-ditch efforts to reach an agreement, both sides seem set on entering a “nuclear winter.”
“It looks like the 2011-12 NBA season is really in jeopardy,” commissioner David Stern told ESPN. “If I were a player in the NBA – one of the 450 – I would be wondering what it is that Billy Hunter just did.”
What Hunter, Fisher and team representatives just did was turn their union into a trade association. A deal can still be made, but the parameters of the newly-formed group’s negotiating ability is limited. It also replaces Fisher at the table with high-powered attorneys, Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies.
The anti-trust lawsuit hasn’t yet been filed. Boies even hinted there’s no guarantee one will be filed. Stern believes it is nothing more than a “negotiating tactic.”
If there is a lawsuit, it will reach the courts quickly. That is the benefit of filing for a disclaimer of interest, and not decertification. That could also lead to the voiding of all NBA contracts. In which case the league could basically blow everything up and start over.
That remains unlikely. And, hopefully, it will never get to that point.
Players and owners didn’t reach an agreement during the 1998-99 lockout until Jan. 7. They still managed to play a 50-game schedule. Stern has said he’s opposed to another short season, but it’s hard to believe he’d turn that down.
Monday was Armageddon for the NBA. Tuesday is still a depressing day. But all hope isn’t lost.
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